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05ISLAMABAD15950 2005-10-24 12:34:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Islamabad
Cable title:  

PAKISTAN EARTHQUAKE: WHAT THE U.S. MUST ACCOMPLISH IN GENEVA

Tags:   AEMR ASEC EAID MASS MOPS PGOV PK PREF PREL 
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1. (C) As the United States prepares for the October 26th
Geneva Donors' Conference on the South Asian Earthquake, we
face a challenge and an opportunity of almost unprecedented
magnitude. Without indulging in hyperbole, I can assure you
that Pakistan - our frontline ally in the war on terror -- is
faced with a calamity of stunning proportions. In the two
weeks since the October 8 earthquake, we have come to realize
that early projections of human and property losses were well
short of the emerging reality. Today the UN almost doubled
its flash appeal for relief assistance to Pakistan: the
inital call for USD 272 million has been raised to USD 522
million to fund shelter, nutrition, health care and
logistical support for the next six months. In order to make
a difference on the ground, given the scale of the
destruction, and to retain our position on the moral high
ground here and throughout the Muslim world, I urge that the
U.S. delegation arrive in Geneva prepared to pledge USD 500
million in relief and reconstrution assistance.

Relief Operations -- Acute Need for Months, Not Weeks


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2. (SBU) Official estimates from Government of Pakistan
(GOP) now place the confirmed death toll at more than 50,000,
with another 75,000 seriously injured and 2.5 - 3 million
homeless. These numbers will continue to rise as relief
crews push into ever more remote valleys and hamlets.
Despite 16 days of 24/7 operations, relief has yet to reach
perhaps one-quarter of the population in inaccessible areas
of the disaster zone. Entire cities have been leveled and
hundreds of isolated villages have simply vanished.
Infrastructure -- roads, bridges, power supplies,
telecommunications -- throughout Pakistan-controlled Azad
Jammu Kashmir (AJK) and large swaths of the North West
Frontier Province (NWFP) has been destroyed. I do not
exaggerate when I say that the GOP is facing a cataclysm of
relief and reconstruction needs, demands on a scale that no
country other than the U.S. could face alone.

3. (C) For our part, we are rapidly burning through the
initial USD 50 million announced by the White House on
October 9th. This does not included the non-monetized
expenses of the U.S. military units that are sustaining the
GOP's present relief operations. This will not/not taper off
anytime soon. The hard truth is that the "acute phase" of
the disaster will last for months and that Pakistan will
require the combined assistance of USG agencies --
USAID/DART, State and all four military services -- for the
foreseeable future. Even with this extraordinary U.S.
mega-relief mission, we are not even close to addressing the
magnitude of the relief and reconstruction challenges facing
Pakistan. U.S. officials who have seen the disaster zone
first-hand have immediately understood that we must factor
acute relief needs for shelter, heavy engineering, health
care and logistical support continuing well into the next
year into our assistance strategy, even as we simultaneously
map out long-term support for the region's reconstruction.

Looking Toward Reconstruction -- What Can the U.S. Do?


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4. (C) To make a lasting difference as Pakistan rebuilds
AJK and NWFP -- two regions which collectively qualify as a
jihad heartland -- we must go to Geneva prepared to challenge
all donors to think big and dig deep. The near complete loss
of physical and social infrastructure demands a
multi-national reconstruction effort on the scale of the
international response to tsunami earlier this year. I
therefore urge that the U.S. delegation inspire other donors
by announcing a pledge of USD 500 million directed toward
reconstruction of the education and health sectors:

-- In health care, the USG would have a significant effect by
committing to rebuild, equip and staff both tertiary
hospitals destroyed in NWFP and AJK, as well as dozens of
district hospitals and primary health care facilities.

-- In education, some 2500 schools were destroyed in NWFP and
more than 3100 in AJK. The USG should rebuild at least 200
primary schools, 20 middle schools and 10 high schools in
each of the two provinces, as well as restore the Hazara
University in the Mansehra District of NWFP and AJK
University in Rawalkot.

5. (C) In addition to these two vital tasks, the U.S.
should also offer to facilitate the GOP's reconstruction
plans by offering technical assistance in
earthquake-resistant construction technologies, including
hands-on training for the architects, engineers and
construction workers who will rebuild houses, schools,
clinics and businesses.

What Can the U.S. Get Others To Do?


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6. (C) Even a pledge of USD 500 million will only scratch
away at the mountain of reconstruction needs facing the GOP.
Just as Pakistan cannot shoulder this burden alone, neither
can we -- we must do everything possible to ensure a strong
international commitment to Pakistan's long-term recovery.
Although I remain concerned about the success of the October
26th Geneva Conference (Ref B), an early and strong USG
pledge at Geneva is the best means of spurring other donors
into action. Several of the Gulf states have made generous
pledges and may be willing to do more. Europeans hesitant to
donate to the GOP out of fear of corruption and questions
regarding transparency could take heart from a vigorous U.S.
response. We must encourage these donors to take on projects
of a similar scale: rebuilding roads, restoring bridges,
reconnecting power grids and communication systems. Just as
the USG is leveraging its emergency relief assistance --
responding to GOP requests for four hospitals by supplying
two ourselves and identifying partners who can provide the
remainder -- we must also leverage our reconstruction dollars
to challenge the international community to do the same.


Generosity Now Will Pay Dividends Later


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7. (C) The U.S. role in the Geneva Conference will be a
pivotal point for securing Pakistan's new-found confidence
that we are sincere in our commitment to a long-term
strategic relationship. Our strong showing in supporting
emergency relief operations has prompted many in Pakistan to
re-evaluate their image of America. The U.S. has not enjoyed
such a positive reception by the Pakistan people, press and
public officials in decades. Expectations are high, both
here and throughout the Muslim world. Other donors are
looking to us to set the bar. (Note: In addition to snipes
in the international press that the inital U.S. pledge of USD
50 million was parsimonious, we have seen reports that other
large donors -- including the Saudis (Ref C) -- have been
less than impressed with the USG's public donation. End
note.) We risk squandering these gains if our leadership in
Geneva, both in terms of the generosity of our pledge and our
ability to generate commensurate international support, is
insufficient to the task. If we arrive in Geneva with a bold
program and the resources to back it up, even the skeptics
will take note that the U.S. is as willing to fight extremism
and instability by investing in Pakistan's recovery -- and,
by extension, the Muslim world -- as it is to underwriting
the war on terror.



CROCKER